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Listening: The heartbeat of songs

This week we’re talking about Listening: the heartbeat of songs. Our focus here is beat. We’re going to listen for heartbeats in music.

Imagine you’re listening to a song and your head starts nodding to the music, your foot starts tapping… that’s what I call the heartbeat of the song. That beat will go through the song. It might change at points when the song changes, if the song goes into a different section, but on the whole, it will stay in that heartbeat.

Grouping the heartbeat

Let’s group the beat. 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4. Think about finding the heartbeat of the song and just trying to count and see if it’s working in fours. Most popular songs will work in fours, but some work in threes. For example, lots of waltzes work in three… 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3.

Once we start listening to the heartbeat of the song, start listening to different sections and recognising different sections in the song.

So if I play Fleetwood Mack’s Landslide, again you can see that as one section of the song, it’s just repeating around, but as I change it, you can feel and hear that it’s going to change – watch the video to find out what I mean.

A lot of songs, especially pop songs, will have an intro which might be just how to get into the song. They will then have this structure verse and chorus. So the verses usually have different words in them, but they’ll be following that same pattern. And then it will move into a chorus, which is quite often the same wording.

So if you look at a different song, something like red Hot Chilli Peppers – I could have lied. This song starts with an intro which is just how the first verse goes.

And then that will move into the chorus, which is completely different in this case. And then from there, it moves back into the verse. So it’s a very distinct difference between the chorus and the verse on that particular song. So, and then the outro for that song is literally that again. And that is the song – intro and outro. Quite often the outro will be referring to if not the same as the intro. Listen carefully to songs.

Try to identify that heartbeat in the songs you listen to. Count and see if you can feel fours or threes.